Steve’s Diary for August 6: Images and the Kingdom of Heaven

Getting back into the ‘Pray as you Go’ daily podcast now that I have some new headphones, today I happened upon the podcast for the Monday of the last week of July and rather than trying to download the podcast for today, I listened to that one. The scriptural reading was Jesus’ parables of the mustard-seed and the leaven. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed growing and like leaven causing a lump of dough to rise. But what struck me was not that these are organic processes or that they are phenomena taking place at the edges of society, mustard being a food despised by Jewish food laws, and the leavening of yeast being lowly women’s work—but rather that these parables of the kingdom of heaven are images not theories or direct descriptions.

The kingdom of heaven is like images. Or maybe it IS images. Jesus’ use of images reminds us that images are not illusions. They do not hide the truth. They do not even stand for other things. Jesus says ‘the kingdom of heaven is like…’. That likeness is the way the kingdom of heaven keeps appearing — like this, like that, the this and that changing and developing. The organic processes of growing and leavening are processes of change, of things appearing. Jesus uses that constant changing, appearing, shifting of images to imitate the experience of knowing God. In the Lord’s Prayaer, Jesus teaches us to address God as father- as inexhaustible origin giving rise to being. God is thus unknowable as such. We know Him through images, signs, words. And Jesus is extraordinary to us because he is described as word, as word made flesh, as embodied image. We thus know God through body. Not theory or direct description but touch, breath, melody sensitizes us to ourselves as creatures not of our own making.

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